Hours after a 5–4 decision at the Supreme Court striking down the Defense of Marriage Act’s ban on recognizing same-sex couples’ marriages and once done with a New York news conference about the decision, Edith Windsor — known as Edie — spoke with BuzzFeed about how she was feeling about the ruling and the experience.
Her lawyer, Roberta Kaplan, joined the call to talk about what she was thinking about Wednesday’s ruling in their case and the court’s decision dismissing the appeal of the challenge to California’s Proposition 8. Kaplan, a partner at the New York firm Paul Weiss Rifkind Wharton & Garrison, took on Windsor’s case pro bono back in 2010 and saw the case through Wednesday’s victory at the Supreme Court.
Windsor, meanwhile, is readying herself for her role as a grand marshal of the 44th annual New York City LGBT Pride March on Sunday.
So, how are you doing?
Edith Windsor: I’m particularly good today.
What are you thinking right now?
EW: Wow. It just feels glorious. I’m terribly excited and terribly pleased. I was very frightened at first that, it suddenly occurred to me that it might be as-applied, and I thought as-applied would mean only that I would get my money. … That moment I realized [it wasn’t] that, I relaxed. It was just glorious — that the whole thing went through, and beautifully. And, mostly, I had this incredibly good lawyer, which helps a lot.
When you heard the news, what was your immediate reaction?
EW: I had pretty much the same reaction as almost everyone in the room: We were all crying.
Roberta Kaplan: I think it would be fair to say there was a lot of screaming and tears.
When we’ve talked before, you’ve talked about the fact that you think Thea would be proud of you for this. Now that your name is on the Supreme Court case that ended this discrimination, what do you think she would have to say?
EW: I think she’d say, “You did it, honey.” That’s exactly what she would say. I think she would be very pleased for us both.
The news came just days before you’re due to be the grand marshal at the New York Pride parade. What do you think about that?
EW: It’s great fun to me. I march every year. I mean, last year was almost an Edie parade. Last year, the ACLU marched right next to us, and SAGE marched right next to us. I felt like I owned the parade a little bit last year, but not anything like it’s going to be this year.
What are you most looking forward to about it this year?
EW: Somehow, being grand marshal is different. It’s very exciting. I love the parade — and I love having this role in it.
What do you say to the young people who are now the age that you were when you met Thea? What do you think about the life they’ll lead now?
EW: I love it. What many, many of them say … is that I’m an inspiration to them, that Thea and I are an inspiration to them. And that’s a thrilling position to be in. I think they’re right! I love being in that position.
And, Roberta, for you, what did this day mean?
RK: This day means the end of federal discrimination against married couples simply because they are gay. The Supreme Court could not have been any clearer about that. They describe DOMA as exactly what it was, which is a statute that was intended solely to denigrate gay people because they’re gay, and the Supreme Court said that statutes like that are unconstitutional.
What about when you look at the fact that the Proposition 8 decision, dismissing the case on standing, only impacts California?
EW: Can I answer it for a second, then Robbie can answer it seriously? I have a new mantra, which is, “Thirteen states, how about that?” We have a historical experience with 13 colonies, and I think we’ll grow in the same way, with all kinds of difficulties along the way.
RK: I think it’s important not to lose sight of the fact that the result of the Perry ruling today is that marriage will come back for gay couples in California. And what that means is that a very significant portion of our population in this country will live in states where gay couples have the right to marry, and those will now be “full-milk” marriages, not simply “skim-milk” marriages. And that’s an enormous statement, and something to celebrate.
Of course, that doesn’t mean that the fight is over. The fight will continue on until every gay person in the United States has the right to be married and to have that marriage recognized under both state and federal law.
Anything else you’re thinking about?
RK: Not only President Obama, but our whole nation, has been on a journey. And we now know that the United States Supreme Court, too, has been on a journey — from Romer [v. Evans (decision)] to Lawrence [v. Texas (decision)] to Windsor today. And I think that what’s clear about today is that that journey will only continue.
EW: I talked about it earlier in the case. I do think, in many ways, the fact that the federal government will no longer discriminate against us — I understand “us” is we who are already married — but that’s a huge step.
When people asked, “What do you think will happen if you win?” I talked about, in some ways, the beginning of the end of stigma. It’s the beginning of the end of a lot of internalized homophobia, it’s the beginning of kids and teenagers falling in love for the first time and knowing that they can marry someday.
It’s already showing in the community. We have different self-esteem and different hopes, and different hopes means different futures.